Friday, 30 December 2011

Has UL become stagnant, or have we become too complicated?

Hendrik Morkel put me onto an article written by Ryan Jordan and, on which, there were a great many comments - some quite vociferous. One comment, which I reproduce in full below as I do not want to quote it out of context, was from Miguel D Arboleda in Japan. For those of us who don't visit forums that much anymore, I think it bears some considering:


"Lots of thoughts on the article and all the comments, especially after having been a very active member here since the beginning and involved with UL for more than 14 years. Wanted some time to contemplate before I said anything. In many ways this is a painful discussion, almost as if we are having to look back upon our decade-long obsession and question the legitimacy of spending so much time going bonkers over all those things.

In reading all the comments I felt a great inner conflict between the philosophy that Ryan is advocating (and that he has been deeply reflecting on for quite a few years now, especially in his blog) of keeping life simple and non-wasteful and non-damaging, and the philosophy of being involved with an activity in which gear is a big part of enjoying that activity, thereby spending too much time thinking about gear, and yet the focus of that activity is to get away from the trappings of modernity and its "things". A paradox that is very, very difficult to resolve. How do you love simplicity and frugality and efficiency while at the same time loving gear, too?

I don't agree with Ryan's premise that Cottage Manufacturers are stagnant, but I thought his essay and people's responses were great.

May I suggest a different approach to the problem that seems to be afflicting the entire UL movement, including a great number of UL cottage manufacturers and BPL itself? Perhaps it is the very UL philosophy that is stagnant, and not simply the technicians implementing it?

I think we have reached the same crossroads that manufacturers like The North Face, Sierra Designs, Patagonia, and Marmot encountered when their early designs were no longer the revolutionary game changers they were at the beginning. So, like them, has UL run out of steam? 

My guess is that the crux of the problem is the conflict between UL as a way of life and philosophy versus economic and reputation interests. When UL is practiced purely as an approach to backpacking without regard for protecting self-interests other than safety, ability to move, and enjoy your particular activity then it grows innovative simply out practical necessity… you simply use what works and toss aside that which doesn't. It never accumulates. At its very purest your belongings would consist of no more than a single pack (or two at most, when considering winter) with one set of essentials and no more. As some said earlier, you would just grab your pack and head out the door without endless hours calculating weights, materials, design, etc. 

What do you do, though, when you also simply love gear for gear's sake? It doesn't fit into the UL philosophy… anything that is extraneous or duplicated immediately makes the philosophy conflictual. Ryan is one of the most guilty in the UL community in this regard… constantly promoting simplifying and discarding what is not necessary, and yet over the years has probably used more different kinds of gear than most of us will ever see (not meant in a disparaging way… I am sure a lot of us here would love to try out all the different gear he's tried if we had the chance). In this article for instance he promotes the MLD Trailstar, but that was definitely not the first time he nominated a certain product as the bees knees. Over the years I recall him saying the MLD Duomid, the Black Diamond One Shot, the BPL Nanotarp, the ID SilShelter, the GG SpinnTarp, and others as "the best". We all have done this, so I'm not trying to paint Ryan as worse than any of the rest of us, but it does call into question our reasons for going UL besides just to lighten up. 

One of the things that impressed me immensely about Glen Van Peski (I met him last year and we've been in touch for over 10 years) was that he does almost all his hiking with one pack and one pack alone… his trusty Murmur. That's it. Everything else he deals with as contingents along the way, adapting what he has to the situation and making do. I've tried reaching this way of thinking, but my gear obsession (which I've lately been doing my best to completely rein in) and also my, as Andrew Skurka wrote in an email reply to me, "packed fears", keep me heading to the outdoor stores and loving so much of what I see. Admittedly, like Doug, I don't get out as much as I'd like to. Having been first ambushed by a major earthquake earlier in the year, a completely disrupted life, then getting big healthy problems has made it hard to get out as much as I would have liked. Heading to the outdoor shop in the real world or online is a kind of candy; it relaxes me and allows me the closest I can get to the natural world that I love so much that is possible when getting out there is an infrequent option.

So the question is, what should the UL philosophy reflect beyond backpacking? Ryan has often written about carrying UL over into everyday life, and here I point specifically to the amount of stuff we haul around in our daily lives. Having tried myself to get rid of what I don't need I can say that it is far more difficult to do than any hiking trip is. 

What happens though when we begin to live our lives according to this life of simplicity? It means we no longer support cottage manufacturers as much and buy less. Cottage manufacturers are far more sensitive to supply and demand than the big companies are. They can't take the same risks, especially in the bad recession we are in right now. Remember they have to support their families, too. Witness the Brooks Range Rocket tent… major problems began cropping up with the cuban material they used, so the company had to pull the product. Since their reputation depended on that particular product and the material it used, the problem with the material basically ruined their reputation, especially for a product that was as expensive as the Rocket was. What, too, happened to Wanderlust Gear? Dancing Light Gear? Or even the aborted preparations for Colin Ibbotson's new cottage gear company "TrampLite"? A lot of them must have financial and personal reasons for not making it and deciding to discontinue. Lack of innovation is not the only reason these manufacturers disappear.

The funny thing about having gone UL is that when I was a "mainstream" backpacker I owned one bomber pack, one pair of Italian heavy leather boots, one tent, one stove, one sleeping bag, and a few assortment of clothes. It is only after going UL that my closet has overrun with stuff. I began buying obsessively from cottage gear manufacturers, entranced, as everyone else, by this new "magic" gear. But the spell is wearing off and I'm coming to my senses. I miss maintaining my single pair of boots for ten years running, miss the attachment I felt for my 10-year-old Lowe Alpine Contour 60, miss the wide variety of conditions my The Northface Tadpole was able to handle without my ever having had to regret taking it. My gear WAS simple. The only thing that UL opened my eyes to were weight and all the possibilities opened up in trying to bring the weight down. I have felt guilty and frustrated with the "weight" of things in my home. It's decidedly not simple anymore."

I think there is some sense in what he says.

35 comments:

  1. I was just thinking yesterday "how many base layers do I need?" Certainly not seven. But then I also recognise that we more active (online) UL consumers serve a role as testers of gear, and hopefully our opinions help others choose the right piece of gear based on the reviews and comments we provide.

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  2. Thanks for posting this. I read Ryan's post and found the comments (c. 2 days ago) far more insightful and less contradictory than Ryan's words. Miguel sounds like a complete voice of reason for me so I'm glad you've posted his comments here.
    I think I would rather keep things simple too, rather than indulge in consumerist response to gear titillation with the resultant time spent in researching gear, it's storage and tying up of cash and resources that ensues. How successful I am in that remains to be seen!

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  3. I think the best blogs do provide that service but for how long? We cannot afford to buy everything and our content is currently free. For how long can we maintain that with our busy lives? Who knows? Maybe forever, maybe not. Hope you're happy in your new home and the family is well. Best wishes for 2012.

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  4. I've had to build an insulated shed to keep it in. 'Nuff said...

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  5. Mr Arboleda can always be relied upon for incisive and sensitive comment.  Mr Jordon sounds a little angry in places, and anger clouds the mind.   My own impression is that most folk don't want simple, they want complexity, because of other, and weightier, emotional or psychological baggage - as Mr Skurka concisely points out, 'packed fears'.  Its devilishly hard to strip it down to the basics, and when we do, what are we left with? Just us.  Wherever we go, there we are.  That can be terrifying. 

    As in life, so on trail. 

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  6. Triggered by this post, tweets I saw, and the letter I had read earlier on BPL.com, I replied on BPL myself.

    I think there's several things in the letter and the various replies (I must admit I haven't read all of them);
    There's the concept of 'Living Simply' (as Patagonia put it on their Tee's) - this could include 'Living Ultra Light'. There's the activity of Ultralight Backpacking. There's loads of gear - both traditional and ultralight. And then there are the people interpreting the concept, doing the activity, owning the gear, and ultimately deciding what they want to do with it all.

    My personal response?
    I love gear. I love hiking and climbing. I do not like weight. I do not like complications. I do not like clutter. I am trying to live more simple. I am incorporating everyting into my own lifestyle.
    You may like my lifestyle, you may not. You may have other ideas!
    To each his own.

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  7. I agree. Simplicity is what we crave and, in an effort to reach it, we've become more complicated. I also thought about the heavy pack, the thick leather boots and the sweaty cotton with affectionate nostalgic reminiscence, but that's what it is - nostalgia. UL has taught me a lot, but UL for UL's sake is not the point it seems to me. I also get frustrated by forums picking on individual sentences and taking them out of context - that's why I reproduced the entire comment.

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  8. Thanks Sieto. To each his own. Read my blog if you want to, move on if you don't! Let's enjoy what we have and make our own choices.

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  9. I don't much care for BPL, I don't subscribe and never have, though I have bought the odd article in the past. I find Ryan Jordan to be a contrarian, David Koresh type character, with goggly-eyed subjects who don't seem to question his motives. He's a businessman after all. Maybe I'm just too cynical, I'm always deeply suspicious of anyone who positions themselves as an 'expert'.
    How much innovation can we really expect from an industry which produces products which help us to do three of the most basic things a human can do; eating, walking and sleeping. The UL cottage industry filled a niche the multinationals had ignored. Mostly by taking a 'less is more' approach and to some extent using exotic materials.UL development may have plateaued, and the rate of innovation/game changers has slowed. I'm surprised that any 'expert' would be surprised by this. Surely it was inevitable?

    On the other hand. I recognise that all my opinions are somewhat from the outside looking in. I'm not UL, I'm not an early adopter and I'm not as 'into' the whole scene as others are. 

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  10. Most of my walking is for one day only and weight is not that important.  However at an advanced age I have taken up backpacking and weight (for me ) is important.  I have, after reading numerous blogs now have sufficient kit to keep me going for quite some time and hopefully will not be buying the latest gizmo. I even had trouble this Christmas finding things I wanted.

    The high cost of gear does seem to have become ridiculous but it was pleasing to see a £10.00 fleece reviewed in the current TGO.Lets not forget why we venture into the outdoors, to misquote "Its the environment stupid"

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  11. I started writing a post very similar to Miguels comment a few days ago before I read Ryans post, which then caused me to pause. 

    I agree with just about everything Miguel said. I have more or less stopped buying gear unless something breaks/fails or I don't have something suitable for the task. Also not accepting any free gear either, as its just more "stuff". I am slowly trying to think the same with everything in my life (all possessions), and getting rid of the things I've accumulated over the years, not just outdoor gear.

    Choice can sometimes be a hindrance. 

    Ryan replied to me on Twitter a few months ago about the Trailstar, he seamed to think the Duomid or Khufu was better at the time. Our opinions change, as they should.

    The best part of Ryans post was "Pack less, buy less, and love what you do buy" something to live by!

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  12. I also found it quite amusing that the Backcountry Boiler was held up as as paragon of innovation. Not knocking the product, it appears to be a lovingly crafted and elegant solution [albeit of limited use in the UK IMO]. But it's just a Kelly Kettle. 

    The most innovative thing about it is the website used to fund it. 

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  13. Mm... Interesting points. It's a bit of a dilemma regarding outdoor blogs though isn't it? Everyone wants readers and interest in their blog, but the only thing that drives them is gear talk. I'd love people to read about my trips, but those reports never get the interest that a review of a jacket will get! That concept alone actually makes me feel a little depressed whenever I look at blog stats.   

    Walking in the outdoors should be a mentally simplistic occupation (hopefully!) but sometimes now it seems to be an extreme sport where that latest and lightest thing will offer something incredibly beneficial  to the hike. It's almost as if the gear used is more important than the trip itself :)  A friend of mine calls it 'geekdom of the outdoors' and I'm hard pressed to disagree with him.

    I've been guilty of over-indulging in the gear wars, but something seems a little wrong when there's more stuff than ever to use outdoors when we should be more sustainable isn't there? I'm quite happy hiking lately with my torn pants as they don't seem too dead to need replacing just yet. They're not at the stage of damage where I'll get arrested just yet, but a couple of years ago I would have raced out and replaced them :) 

    Each to their own though, but (don't you hate the 'but' bit?!) endless gear talk is mind numbingly boring if that's all our blogs start providing. I still like to read trip reports and look at photos of places I'll probably never get to. I'm hoping everyone gets some walking in next year and writes about it to inspire me a little when I'm staring out the window whilst stuck in the office at work!

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  14. I just bought some new gear.  Bad old me.  I also got some stuff not long back from Cottage manufacturers.  You know the ones who BPL have show cased for years.  

    Ryan liked the SpeedMid in yellow.  It was all you need. He did a blog post on it. Then he got a Locus Gear shelter and now he likes the Trailstar.  Packs and kit galore.  He once started a decent video project called 24.  that lasted a couple trips.  He has his views.  Once he went on big UL trips and tried to push the envelope.  I once enjoyed reading his views.   He seemed to have stooped going on big walks and more of a drifting down  a stream fishing as he goes.  

    But for his views and BPL's - I woke up and thought.  I dont give  a damn about tags like UL, SUL and wow I have a base weight of 2.4kg.  Big deal.  Packing light makes sense.  But we decide what we want and dont want.  We decide the weight and not someone else.

    There seems a dont buy gear now movement.  Its bad.  Actually getting gear is based on what we need and decide fits us.  Not what Ryan or anyone else thinks.  

    As for new ides from the small firms.  I see lots.  Maybe Ryan needs to open his eyes.   Six Moons, MLD, Zpacks all have new and good ideas on kit.  Back them - as you'll miss them when their gone.  As for Ryans ideas.  Well BPL kit was not a outstanding run away success was it.  What happened to cutting edge design there?

    My advice to Ryan is go do some trips and write about that - maybe then BPL will have something other than Gear reviews every week.   Maybe they will enjoy the outdoors and spend less time coming up with a view on this, or that, which to be honest most people dont care about. 

    As for Miguel and his comments.  He always has been a good voice of sense among the views on BPL.  His blog is great as well.   

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  15. Nice post that Maz.  I have to admit that I really dislike the whole 'UL' label / movement, it often comes across as a way for people to feel more superior than 'mainstream' backpackers.  The UL label often appears to have nothing to do with trying to reduce your pack weight, just a way of shoing how wealthy you are.  An alternative to buying a flash car. I have to admit that I do find gear to be rather sexy but at the end of the day it is simply a tool that perhaps can enhance the outdoor experience.  Its a shame that we often feel the need to own several rucksacks, sleeping bags, stoves etc as you can only use one a time.  I was once called a 'conventional' backpacker as I suggested that why potentially make yourself uncomfortable to save 200 grammes.  A totally meaningless statement.  Labels just serve to satisfy our sense of wanting to belong, to fit in with a group, to elevate ourselves above others.

    I'm off tomorrow backpacking in my leather boots, I'm happy just to enjoy the hills...........

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  16. I too find Ryan a hard act to follow. He is in a business - running an outdoor forum/review/articles etc., ........Outdoors Magic for a cost (and not as friendly, IMHO).

    This article obviously has sparked reaction. As an ex BPL Member, I'm pleased not to join in the debate on BPL. I have seen in the past how nasty and personal some debates can get.

    I have gone lighter in weight, and will admit to going too far along the "I must have that" route. Now, I've sold gear on eBay and got a collection which suits me. It is a mixture of UL and light.
    I have kept an eye on trends in the market and I have not been impressed with some of the latest "innovations". I guess I will eventually end up with some tried and trusted gear that will be vintage.

    What has been said by a number of folk is that it comes down to what suits them to enable them to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Function over style.
    If folk want to follow the UL line slavishly, that's their choice.

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  17. I'm glad you posted this here as well as I had mostly stopped reading the replies. FWIW I got to read Ryan's article weeks before he published it, since, at the time, he wasn't sure whether to put it out there or not. I fully encouraged he post it. IMO it's designed as much to shake things up (and bring back some of the original BPL spunk) as anything. Obviously it has been wildly successful in that regard.

    Is BPL a business? Sure. As much as the various blogs that make a little money here and there. Ryan isn't making money from BPL and neither are all but one staff member. The only people really getting paid are those writing articles and even then it's minimal (unless you count keeping any gear you review which may or may not amount to anything substantial). And that pretty much tells you why most of the articles are gear reviews. We're greedy. Would you rather get paid $50 to review a $500 winter bag (which you could turn around and sell for let's say $300) or would you rather just get paid the same $50 for a trip report? Be honest.

    I have had a simplified gear collection for over a year now. Part of it was moving in to a small(ish) home with limited space for non-essentials and part of it was my own grand illusions of a simple life. Do I replace a piece of my kit now and then? Sure, if something else better fits my needs of 1 pack (each for me and my wife), or 1 shelter (to cover solo and duo trips), or 1 cook system (for solo and duo trips), etc. Where it really gets hard, though, is trying to cover multiple pursuits with that one pack, one shelter, etc. I can easily handle all seasons in my primary locale and even cover packrafting or climbing. But if I go out mountain biking for a day or for a long trail run my large(ish) pack no longer fits the need. Fortunately, a single pack can also cover both of those.....but now we're up to 2 packs (per person) in my gear stash. Of course, that's still far less than a lot of people covet just for backpacking.

    Anyway...enough musing for now. Thanks again for reposting this.

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  18. I'm a bit of a Luddite, and I had to Google "Ryan Jordan" to see who the chap was - I had often heard his name bandied about.
    Having just finished re-reading "Hamish's Groats End Walk" (first published in 1981) he said " We are disgracefully treated by the trade on the whole, being conned into more and more expensive equipment and in the long run gaining very little.... Of course there is good gear about and I am fascinated by its development, but selectivity seems to be entirely lacking. The majority of hillwalkers... are vastly overgeared."Thirty years on, and nothing seems to have changed.

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  19. Has UL become stagnant?  Well that depends on what you see as UL.  If you're into it as a lifestyle philosophy maybe, I don't know.  But who cares?

    Most people just want to go for a walk or a camp and enjoy themselves.  Over time you get a feel for what works for you for a given set of circumstances and conditions.  if that means you replace your tent, coat, whatever, if you can afford it why not?  Companies like Patagucci really do take the biscuit a little.  Ultimately they want you to keep on buying those t shirts.  The environment is just an added marketing tag, if it makes you feel good about the purchase then great but please don't kid yourself that you've just done your bit to save the planet by buying something you don't really need from a multi-million dollar company.

    As for bloggers and leading the way, deary me.  I'm at fault because I read and enjoy blogs and I'm into new shiney things.  But blogs are almost as guilty as the maligned walking press for freebies and gear reviews.  PTC gets more stuff sent to him in a week than Go Outdoors stock.  Last year Andy Holwell posted something about bloggers seemingly being the only people outdoors.  Thats seriously bad news for all those people camping most nights of the year by popular tarns in the Lakes in their £60 Vangos.  how can Vango exist when the only tents anyone owns are Trailstars or Duomids?

    Mmm bit of a rant.  Sorry.  Hope you all have a great 2012 and that this rain stops!

    p.s. Blogs don't need to have lots of gear to hold interest, possibly (imho) the best UK, well Scottish blog is Montgomery Wick's Tracksterman, there's mention of kit, what breaks what works, but what really works is his lifestyle choice.

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  20. Hi Maz, thanks for posting this up. I don't subscribe to BPL and don't really know Ryan Jordan, other than a name quoted by some bloggers. Rather like James, I don't like the UL label,but it is a convenient way to describe a certain style.
     I am interested in lightweight gear and it features in my blog on a regular basis. It helps me with my dodgy knee and means I can go further than with a heavy pack. I not sure that it actually means that  I enjoy my walking any more because of it. When I started walking again after a long lay -off I walked with heavy boots, inexpensive waterproofs and pack.- I loved getting back into walking, despite some obvious short-comings of my gear. Over the last few years,I have upgraded my gear and some has been an excellent buy and some not, but I still love my walking. Personally I don't think the industry is stagnant, there has been lots of recent innovations.  However, just because you don't use UL gear and approach your walking in a certain way, does not make you inferior to those who extol it as the only way.

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  21. Sometimes I think it'd be better if we coordinated a bit more - spread the reviews around a bit instead of one person reviewing seven shirts, or seven people reviewing the same shirt (I use "shirts" as an example as I'm too lazy to think of anything else).

    Thanks for the well-wishes - we're settling back home nicely, the snow is falling, and if I'm lucky I'll find time to take teh skis out today!

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  22.  As a reader of reviews I'm not sure I agree. I'd rather have more people reviewing the same stuff than everyone reviewing different stuff. It's only when you can compare reviews you can really make up an opinion on what you want to buy and which reviewers you feel hit your spot.

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  23.  I think your last sentence hits the nail on the head.

    I'm not trying to live simple and to me lightweight hiking is simply hiking with good, lightweight gear. I don't quite understand why so many bloggers are agonizing over the moral issues of gear. It feels to me that originally someone pushed lightweight gear by saying it was more environmental and ethical and now there is a crisis of conscience.

    Personally I'm not on that wagon. I don't care if bloggers get the gear they review or get paid as long as it's transparent and I don't care if your closet is full of gear you hardly use.

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  24. A very good point on how the BPL forum is not moderated well at times.  I recall the vile attack on Bob over that Honey Stove and how Ryan let that run when we were shouting for it to be pulled.  He argued free speech for a while on that.  Yet it was a free for all insult. 

    Some of the USA is the best place to live and how we are so missing out threads stinks at times.  Yet in the midst of that there are many fine people.  

    But agree its nasty at times.  Also like the comment on selling stuff to get a collection of Ul and light that suits us. Done and doing the same.    

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  25. Excellent post! Lots of things in there:

    I am glad that UL is dead or dying. Hiking is hiking. Let's concentrate on celebrating our joy of doing it.We are all better off by respecting all the different 'ways' of hiking and outfitting, not by finding ways to create divisions between people.

    I believe that the UL 'movement' has become irrelevant because mainstream hikers have got the message that lighter weight gear and less gear is more comfortable. I agree that the UL label has lost its appeal - it is considered unsafe and elitist by many hikers and outdoor leaders I know. I suspect that BPL itself catalyzed the lash-back against the UL label due to its emphasis on gear and not the experience or skills of hiking.

    As for cottage industry innovation, it is largely being driven by fabric or material changes, not design, which I view as a sign that the product category is maturing. The reason we see fewer new cottage manufacturers (and pay-wall web sites) is that competition has gone up and differentiation (vs mainstream gear) has gone down. The only cottage industry makers who can 'make it' will be those that have a reasonably sized customer base already. The rest are hobbyists, at best, and not viable businesses.

    Agree with the point about the Backcountry Boiler. That was certainly not product innovation - but funding and marketing innovation - another nail in the UL category coffin. It really is just a Kelly Kettle. Duh!

    Gear accumulation: I bought almost ZERO new gear this year because I quit my job (retired) last year and have significantly less disposable income. It didn't kill me, but I am not up on the latest UL fashions. Truth is, my existing gear is as light as I need it to be. It is pointless to get it any lighter because I can carry what I have now quite comfortably. I mostly replace things that I wear out.

    If you want to simplify your life by throwing away your possessions fine, but don't expect me to read about it or really give a toss. All this "less is more" life philosophy is tiring. If you want to simplify your life, get rid of your cell phone, your IPad, your cable TV subscription and your internet connection.

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  26. Also, consider the gear Hamish used on his round of the Munros in 1974 - before most modern fabrics and gear. He carried less weight for a four month walk beginning in April than most people do on the TGO Challenge today.

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  27. Very interesting.
    I will plead the 5th :-)

    Tony/Yoda

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  28. Rather replying to each any every comment individually with what would probably be repetition, here are my views. Firstly, I think the insightful and analytical comments demonstrate that this is a topic people have considered and reasoned views on. For my part, I would say this - UL and SUL can be seen more as a revolution than a discipline. They are a catalyst for a new way of looking at what we take, how much it weighs and how we take it; conversely, it also ensures we think carefully about what we don't take. I think most of the recent writing which suggests that UL is a 'discipline' has been overblown and given too much importance - we are all attracted, in the competitive world we live in, to new, sexy innovations. UL has an important, if not crucial place in the history of re-thinking what we take but it is not the reason we go out. We all want to get out, into the outdoors, to do much the same thing, but for widely differing reasons. Taking a simpler, lighter set-up can only be a good thing, but not when it interferes with our enjoyment of the outdoors, whether by virtue of the cost, the complexity of equipment or because we keep 'upgrading' to something new such that we never really achieve the sense of stability to be garnered from having a settled, effective set-up. Some people will always enjoy testing new kit, but getting outdoors with kit which does the job you need it to do is the primary motivation for most of us. There comes a point where kit cannot really get substantially lighter and fulfil the same task and shaving 10g here and there is not the same as removing 200-300g here and there which might make a difference, especially at lower weights. A 3kg pack vs a 5kg pack may not actually mean much to your back in the grand scheme of things - we're not all ultra-trail runners or professional athletes. Thanks for all the comments and thanks to Miguel for his really superb;y articulated comment in the first place.

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  29. I'm certainly with you on that - some forums are poorly moderated and BPL has its problems from time to time with moderation.

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  30. Hoo hoo! What a surprise to accidentally come upon this blog (great blog, Maz!) and then find this post with my comment in it. And then to have that discussed with so many additional comments! Nice feeling, though.

    I worry about posting in BPL and then having anything I say cause contention and bad feeling. There has been enough head-butting over the years, with some of it way beyond what ought to be considered appropriate. I'm still unsure exactly what Ryan intended with his letter, seeing as he's hardly engaged in the follow-up forum discussion. I find that rather discourteous, seeing as he seems to have intended to get people's goats up. But, like many have said here, perhaps it's not really important enough to get so concerned about.

    For me, one of the reasons that the natural world attracts and amazes me and makes me revel in being in it, is the "Ding an sich" (the thing in itself) quality of everything around me. All of it is stripped to its essence, with absolutely nothing wasted or superfluous. I want to be that way, too, to, for the moments I am out there, exist as close to my spare essence as is possible. When I start adding extras the intimacy that I am able to eke out of the time out there gets clouded and I end up getting distracted from what I feel really matters. Personally, probably the most powerful moments of my life that stay with me are those where I was fully engaged with where and with whom I was.

    I'd like to take that home with me, to make my life in the city a continuation of the life I feel out there. That certainly can't happen if my home is overrun with distractions and clutter that all scream for attention. Perhaps I am being too aesthetic for a lot of people's tastes, but for me, personally, that is what makes my clock tick. If I could rig my life to ever sail within the frame of how I feel when I am in the mountains I feel I will have reached the equilibrium and state of joy and grace that I've been searching for all my life. Perhaps my brand of happiness, if you will.

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  31. I actually like BPL as compared to other forums precisely because of how little it is moderated. It can heat up but there is usually a civil resolve and the community self moderates quite well.
    As far as the cottage industry article, it sparked a good conversation, in my opinion.

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  32. Katharina, conversation isn't necessarily the word I would use. I found much of it was well argued discussion but also much of it was semantic picking apart individual sentences without taking into account the meaning of what was being said. Too often forum contributors reproduce, out of context, one sentence and then aggressively respond, often personally. This thread had far too much of that as well as good, lively debate.

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  33. An interesting response to the original article as well as an overview of the history/state of UL can be found by Ron Moak here: 
    http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/blog.html

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  34. Don't know that I have anything to be said, but I've always believed people with gear fetishes are no different than people with an addiction to shopping for clothing. I bought the majority of my UL gear in 2008 and have made some very minor changes to that selection. I am just not beginning to rethink my shelter and cook system, mainly because I've learned more about myself by sticking with the old one than whats commercially available. i don't think that the gear itself or the manufacturers creating it are stagnant. In the 4 years since I thru hiked the number of ultralight shelters, backpacks, and tents are truly staggering. I'm actually overwhelmed shopping for new gear now because of the over-whelming selection. I've actually decided that I'll cling desperately to my golite breeze until its dying breath because of the beauty of it's simplicity and my KNOWING OF ITS INHERENT LIMITATIONS. Simplicity and knowing your gear is a factor that I TRULY LOVE and VALUE. 

    I believe that the mindset of always doing better, lighter, and more is the problem. The same capitalism, greed, and envy that plagues our society is afoot with many lightweight backpackers. We compare our backpacking gear like people compare jobs, cars, and houses. At a certain point we need to be able to say: GOOD ENOUGH. Our gear serves one purpose: help us enjoy the outdoors. If we could all walk into the woods with nothing and stay comfortably I'm sure we'd do it. Ray jardine, billy and ben from purebound, andrew skurka and a few select others set an example. I appreciate that there are people with open minds thinking about issues facing backpacking and are thinking critically about their gear purchases before selecting another. We all are starting to get a case of affluenza! go hike and stop obsessing about .2 grams. 

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  35. I think this has become relevant again because Andrew Skurka wrote his stupid light article and everyone started asking "Is UL dead?" Thanks for your comment Martin - I agree much of your sentiment. The issue is getting outdoors and enjoying yourself safely. I still apply UL principles to my kit selection and have learned from many discussions over the years but it does not dominate my reason for getting out there - it simply facilitates it.

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